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Blue Eagles eye sweep, place for the final

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Ateneo de Manila University’s Dave Ildefonso drives to the basket against Far Eastern University defenders in the ’84 Season Men’s Basketball Tournament of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) on Thursday, April 28, 2022, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. PHOTO UAAP

Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University is looking to sweep the knockout round and clinch a spot in the Final Four as they take on University of the Philippines (UP) in the men’s basketball tournament of the season 84 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) at the Mall of Asia Arena today, Sunday.

On a 39-game winning streak since 2018, the Blue Eagles looking for four rounds take on the Fighting Maroons at 7 p.m.

Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin said while his side were happy with a 70-53 win over Far Eastern University (FEU) which saw the Blue Eagles clinch first place with their 13th victory and at least twice to beat motivation in the Final Four, they still want to win the Fighting Maroons and go straight to the Finals.

“It’s a big game, of course, because it’s the battle of Katipunan. There will be a lot of fans there. It will be exciting. It’s good to have the double advantage and the first place, but we would like to move forward and end the season with a very positive performance and a win,” said Baldwin.

Sporting an 11-2 win-lose map, UP does indeed look like no easy puzzle for Ateneo. The Fighting Maroons are on a three-game winning streak highlighted by their 96-67 rout of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers last Thursday.

UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde, however, was not as hyped as anyone about the second-round Katipunan battle between his side and Ateneo. He just wants his team to perform at their best, regardless of the team they face.

Meanwhile, Adamson University (5-8), FEU (6-7) and National University (NU, 6-7) battle for the final spot in the Final Four when they face separate foes over early in the day.

Ateneo, UP and De La Salle University (DLSU) have already secured the top three spots in the semi-finals.

The Soaring Falcons take the field first as they take on the Eastern University (EU) Red Warriors (0-13) at 10 a.m. at UST and La Salle, respectively, later in the day.

That would mean all of their records would be at 6-8, which would keep the Soaring Falcons Final Four bid alive. The quotient will be used to break the three-way tie and the top seed among the Soaring Falcons, Tamaraws and Bulldogs would get a bye.

The second and third seeded teams would then feature in a knockout match with the winner facing the top seed for the final spot in the semi-finals.

A loss for Adamson to UE and a win for FEU or NU later in the day, however, would mean the elimination of the San Marcelino-based side who just suffered a 51-64 loss to La Salle last Thursday.

Another possible scenario is that FEU and NU beat UST and La Salle respectively to bring their records to 7-7 each, tied with four fourth places.

If that happens, the Tamaraws and Bulldogs would break their tie via a playoff knockout game, with the winner earning fourth place and last place in the Final Four.

FEU and NU battled through those eliminations, with the former stifling the latter in the second round, 59-57, on April 21, and the latter outlasting the former in the first round, 73-68, on April 2.

If the Tamaraws defeat the Growling Tigers and the Bulldogs lose to the Green Archers, FEU will take last place in the semi-finals and NU will be eliminated. If NU defeats La Salle and FEU loses to UST, then the Bulldogs will take last place in the Final Four.